Toast and coffee

M000

There’s a moment from Arnold Laven’s THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957) that has stayed with me since I first saw it some 35-40 years ago, in revival at my local drive-in, showcased with the Paul Landres two-fer of THE VAMPIRE (1957) and THE RETURN OF DRACULA (1958) — all projected in green. (Primarily so that the management of the Danielson-Putnam Twin Drive-In could announce, honestly, an all color attraction.) Now, given that THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD is about Kraken big mollusks sliming military personnel and sundry civilians around California’s Salton Sea, you might well imagine my favorite moment is one of the film’s big setpieces, perhaps even one involving one of the Krakenettes pinching off the head of a canal lock watchman 0r sucking the vital fluids out of a Navy parachutist… but you’d be wrong.

M001

Toward the end of the movie, when all the narrative cards are on the table and we know that atomic testing has supersized prehistoric mollusks to freakish proportions and a subsea earthquake has freed them from captivity and sent them from the Salton Sea into the local network of canals to work their wormy wickedness in an ostensibly desert setting, hero buddies John “Twill” Twillinger (Tim Holt), a Navy officer, and atomic scientist Jess Rogers (Hans Conried)– who have just blown up what they believe to be the mollusks hive or whatever you call it where mollusks hang — motor back to headquarters, where we further know a captured specimen of the beastie has slipped its bonds and is terrorizing Dr. Rogers’ secretary/Twill’s girlfriend Gail Mackenzie (Audrey Dalton) and her young daughter Sandy (Mimi Gibson). Twill tries to call ahead…

M002

… but there is no answer.

M003

Gail, you see, has her hands full elsewhere…

M004

Nearly a quarter of a century before THE SHINING, Gail and her youngster have taken refuge behind a locked door as Li’l Kraken gets all Heeeeere’s Johnnny on their collective ass. But this isn’t my favorite part! No…

M005

Back in Twill’s ride, believing the monsters to be, once again, history, thoughts turn to the mundane.

M006

Twill: You wanna stop and get some breakfast?

M007

Dr. Rogers: Oh, no. I had toast and coffee when I got up…

M008

Dr. Rogers: … but if you want to stop…

M009

Twill: No, I can wait.

M010

And there it is. I know what you’re thinking — “Are you nuts?!” Generally, horror and sci-fi are both all about the tentpole moments: the thunderous creation of the monster in FRANKENSTEIN (1931), the stormy coach ride from the cemetery in THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), the zombie pig-out in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), the dinner scene in TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), the “tree rape” in EVIL DEAD (1981) — and here I am crushing on toast and coffee talk. I don’t know, maybe I’m just goofy, but there is something about that exchange — which so easily could have been red-penciled or blue-penciled or whatever the protocol is, and would be if the film were made now and probably replaced with some song bearing an ironic meaning — that just delights me. Sure, I love the fact that this moment teases an audience primed for a monster-on-the-loose, cutting away from a tense situation so that two unaware characters can make small talk about pancakes, but even more than that it just seems, I don’t know, real or something, and the characters are just so… what’s the word? Decent. They’re decent, professional people, working a situation through a winning combination of native intelligence, institutional protocol, and courage in bulk. I love that each man is willing to inconvenience himself for the sake of the other — you know Rogers doesn’t care about feeding himself, he just wants to get back to his lab and you know all Twill can think about is a short stack, coffee, and a side of pork sausage, and it’s killing him that he can’t have that right now! — because each man holds the other in such high regard. I truly love the Twill-Rogers partnership in THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD as I do the Quatermass-Roney axis in QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) a decade later. It’s corny and square, I guess, but it comforts me. And I love it. So there.

22 Responses Toast and coffee
Posted By newtexturecom : March 16, 2013 3:46 am

Predates Burt Lancaster’s odd enthusiasm for Jean Seberg’s scrambled eggs in AIRPORT by over a decade.

I eagerly await a “Speaking of Breakfast” post collecting further culinary conversations.

- Wyatt Doyle

Posted By newtexturecom : March 16, 2013 3:46 am

Predates Burt Lancaster’s odd enthusiasm for Jean Seberg’s scrambled eggs in AIRPORT by over a decade.

I eagerly await a “Speaking of Breakfast” post collecting further culinary conversations.

- Wyatt Doyle

Posted By m_Erocrush : March 16, 2013 4:41 am

I can’t help thinking that “stopping for a bite” was one of those unofficial hallmarks of the Hollywood “style” of that era…especially in horror/sci fi. It seems to let the audience know that the characters are just guys like you, like me…anybody.

Posted By m_Erocrush : March 16, 2013 4:41 am

I can’t help thinking that “stopping for a bite” was one of those unofficial hallmarks of the Hollywood “style” of that era…especially in horror/sci fi. It seems to let the audience know that the characters are just guys like you, like me…anybody.

Posted By MedusaMorlock : March 16, 2013 9:42 am

A very observant post! I love the movie, love those actors, love everything about 50s science fiction movies!

I love how the scientists and military guys in these movies at least always seem like grown-ups, not full of tantrums but doing a job, even if it’s averting monster attacks or keeping the world safe from aliens.

It’s that attitude that makes these movies re-watchable for me, in contrast to many today. Interestingly, the closest subject matter to this kind of grim task-oriented movie may be the things that SyFy makes, but they are always terrible, though they could be good if anybody used a grown-up sensibility.

I need to watch this again!!!

Posted By MedusaMorlock : March 16, 2013 9:42 am

A very observant post! I love the movie, love those actors, love everything about 50s science fiction movies!

I love how the scientists and military guys in these movies at least always seem like grown-ups, not full of tantrums but doing a job, even if it’s averting monster attacks or keeping the world safe from aliens.

It’s that attitude that makes these movies re-watchable for me, in contrast to many today. Interestingly, the closest subject matter to this kind of grim task-oriented movie may be the things that SyFy makes, but they are always terrible, though they could be good if anybody used a grown-up sensibility.

I need to watch this again!!!

Posted By Doug : March 16, 2013 11:54 am

The grin began when I saw the photo of Hans Conried and I wear it proudly yet. Seeing Conried in a “B” or “C-” movie is like going to a neighborhood pancake breakfast and finding Wolfgang Puck working the grill.
This exchange reminds me of “I’m a big boy now, Johnnie” from the glorious “Plan Nine From Outer Space”.
Oh, what fun.

Posted By Doug : March 16, 2013 11:54 am

The grin began when I saw the photo of Hans Conried and I wear it proudly yet. Seeing Conried in a “B” or “C-” movie is like going to a neighborhood pancake breakfast and finding Wolfgang Puck working the grill.
This exchange reminds me of “I’m a big boy now, Johnnie” from the glorious “Plan Nine From Outer Space”.
Oh, what fun.

Posted By AL : March 16, 2013 6:56 pm

did you say “Goofy” ?

Posted By AL : March 16, 2013 6:56 pm

did you say “Goofy” ?

Posted By Jack Favell : March 19, 2013 7:40 am

The exchange is just a tease to draw out the suspense, but it’s so perfectly dull and mundane that it works deliciously well to show our heroes as just plain folk.

I still dream of eating the breakfast Robert Shaw ate with such gusto in THE STING. He made it look so good! Though I’m quite sure that whatever it was he was choking down was repulsive in real life, his acting made it seem like the best steak and eggs EVER.

Posted By Jack Favell : March 19, 2013 7:40 am

The exchange is just a tease to draw out the suspense, but it’s so perfectly dull and mundane that it works deliciously well to show our heroes as just plain folk.

I still dream of eating the breakfast Robert Shaw ate with such gusto in THE STING. He made it look so good! Though I’m quite sure that whatever it was he was choking down was repulsive in real life, his acting made it seem like the best steak and eggs EVER.

Posted By robbushblog : March 23, 2013 1:25 pm

I love tiny little character moments like these, especially when they seem real. Movies these days rarely bother with them, and when they do they feel tacked on and phony. John Ford’s movies very often contained little asides that were always welcome.

Posted By robbushblog : March 23, 2013 1:25 pm

I love tiny little character moments like these, especially when they seem real. Movies these days rarely bother with them, and when they do they feel tacked on and phony. John Ford’s movies very often contained little asides that were always welcome.

Posted By m_Erocrush : March 23, 2013 1:36 pm

The only thing I remember from the movie “Brannigan” is John Wayne in a British pub asking for ‘Two over easy, a couple of strips and a short stack’ – What do you suppose it is about Americans and breakfast?

Posted By m_Erocrush : March 23, 2013 1:36 pm

The only thing I remember from the movie “Brannigan” is John Wayne in a British pub asking for ‘Two over easy, a couple of strips and a short stack’ – What do you suppose it is about Americans and breakfast?

Posted By robbushblog : March 23, 2013 1:43 pm

We love breakfast. We can eat it anytime we want too. Who doesn’t love brinner? I just spent $7 on bacon. You can bet I’ll eat that whenever I damn well please.

Posted By robbushblog : March 23, 2013 1:43 pm

We love breakfast. We can eat it anytime we want too. Who doesn’t love brinner? I just spent $7 on bacon. You can bet I’ll eat that whenever I damn well please.

Posted By swac44 : March 25, 2013 11:42 am

Now all I can think about is the stars of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T discussing how they don’t have Quarter Pounders at European McDonald’s.

Posted By swac44 : March 25, 2013 11:42 am

Now all I can think about is the stars of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T discussing how they don’t have Quarter Pounders at European McDonald’s.

Posted By swac44 : March 25, 2013 11:44 am

I love me some breakfast, but Denny’s new “Baconalia” celebration, featuring a bacon maple milkshake, has inspired me never to eat there again.

Posted By swac44 : March 25, 2013 11:44 am

I love me some breakfast, but Denny’s new “Baconalia” celebration, featuring a bacon maple milkshake, has inspired me never to eat there again.

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